Project – Wildlife to Wellbeing; the multiple values of citizen science and new technology.
Biodiversity is in decline which in turn drives economic and human-wellbeing losses. To help reverse this catastrophic loss of our natural heritage, new biodiversity data are needed to identify problems as they emerge, and to quantify the effectiveness of conservation interventions. Increasing engagement of the community with nature is essential to garner support for effective conservation, and engaging with nature has measurable health and wellbeing benefits. This pilot study aims to evaluate the links between improved wildlife monitoring, engagement with nature and health and wellbeing outcomes.
Our project involves deploying novel video-traps for monitoring small mammals, reptiles and frogs in forests and on private property though a collaboration with the Land for Wildlife program, Arthur Rylah Institute and the Department of Environment Lands, Water and Planning. We are building a web-based interface so that citizens can load the data collected on their properties, develop a community of engagement, and contribute to identifying animal species in the videos. Those identifications feed into a machine-learning approach so that we can automatically identify the species in videos in the future, drawing on the expertise in our school of Information Technology and Deakin’s new Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute. Our database management will be completed in collaboration with the Australian Museum and the Atlas of Living Australia, ensuring that data collected contribute to building a bigger picture of biodiversity in Australia. In conjunction with collecting ecological data and engaging citizens in science, we will evaluate the benefits of the project, from health, wellbeing, engagement and economic perspectives using before-after-control-treatment surveys and focus groups
Project – “Augmenting Greener Futures: Educating the Next Generation of Citizen Scientists”.
The disconnection between children and natural landscapes (‘nature deficit disorder’) is well- documented and of concern to educationalists and to local government given its impact on mental health and well-being. Prior research has demonstrated the effectiveness of Augmented Reality in improving children’s motivation, learning, and spatial awareness, especially for disadvantaged groups. The project addresses 3 main practical problems:
- The loss of biodiversity, especially in urban areas;
- The lack of conservation awareness linked to a dislocation and dissociation between children and nature;
- The gap between understanding and action, and awareness and behavioural change.
Working with primary students in their schools, we will apply augmented reality (AR) to create interactive biodiversity maps of the local environment. Under guidance, students will develop a series of AR ‘games’ to increase or decrease biodiversity, reimagining what areas could look like if they were conserved or increasingly urbanised. The project offers us 3 main opportunities:
- Using pre-formatted AR devices such as mobile phones or projectors, the project creates interactive student experiences that allows them to visualise how green the future can be, creating a space where technology is experienced as an enabler.
- By providing an interactive AR experience for children the project encourages ongoing engagement with nature, with potentially significant health and wellbeing benefits as well as positive outcomes for biodiversity conservation.
- The project introduces school children to the concept of citizen science and their on-going role in conservation.